Ninth Circuit Body Slams Parent's Rights [Excerpts]
America's favorite appeals court has done it again! The 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, notorious for ruling against "under God" in the Pledge, upset families across America with another controversial decision, this time undermining parents' rights. In the case of Fields v. Palmdale School District, the 9th Circuit ruled that parents have no constitutional right to prevent a school district from introducing sexual ideas to their children.
Parents of 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders at Mesquite Elementary School in Palmdale, California, were asked to sign a parental consent letter, giving the school permission to administer a psychological test to their children. The stated goal of the study was "to establish a community baseline measure of children’s exposure to early trauma (for example, violence)" and to "identify internal behaviors such as anxiety and depression and external behaviors such as aggression and verbal abuse." The results of the study would be used to help create a better learning environment for troubled children.
A number of parents who agreed to let their children participate were later dismayed to learn that the survey involved eight sex-related questions inappropriate for the average 6-10 year old. These included "Thinking about touching other people's private parts" and "Can't stop thinking about sex."
Several parents eventually took the issue to court. They argued that the school district had robbed them of their fundamental right "to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs."
The 9th Circuit, however, ruled that no such fundamental right existed - either in the Constitution or in statute law, or even in the nation's history and tradition. In his opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt argued that allowing parents that right would place an undue burden on schools to cater to the moral beliefs of each student. Parents had the right, Reinhardt said, to decide where to send their children to school, but not to dictate what a public school exposed to their children.
"...once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished."
Reinhardt's opinion could be considered legally compelling - the Constitution says nothing about parents' rights, after all. The parents might also have done better to argue their case from the 1st or 4th Amendments. Yet, Reinhardt's liberal ideology still oozes through the rhetoric; the Constitution says nothing about public schools' rights either. This is the same Judge Reinhardt, remember, who ruled in 1996 that the "right to privacy" guaranteed a right to physician assisted suicide. He's argued that farmers cannot fight the Endangered Species Act when it destroys their livelihood because an "economic interest" is involved. He comes up with all sorts of ways to get "rights" from the succinct lines of the Constitution text. Yet, in Fields v. Palmdale, he decided public schools are free to expose young children to sensual concepts, and parents did not have the right to stop them (http://www.khouse.org/enews_article/2005/992/print/).